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Which Spartans Might Get Drafted Next?

Now let’s look at the NBA prospects playing for MSU

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 12 Big Ten Tournament - Michigan State v Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A few days ago, we examined which players on the MSU football team would be the most likely to get selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. Now let’s turn our attention to Tom Izzo’s squad and see who on the ‘23-24 team could hear his name called by Commissioner Silver in the next NBA Draft. Lately, we have seen MSU get at least one player drafted every other year. In this past draft, there were no Spartans. Prior to that, Max Christie was picked in 2022, Xavier Tillman and Cassius Winston were selected in 2020, and Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges were tabbed in 2018. Following that pattern, this next draft should have at least one guy coming from E.L.

Let’s start with making a list of possible candidates. We know Tyson Walker and Malik Hall are playing a fifth-year next season and will be out of eligibility. A.J. Hoggard and Mady Sissoko are going to be seniors this coming year, but they are the last class who will have the option of playing a fifth year due to the coronavirus. (I had to look this up. Even though 2019-20 was the cancelled tournament year, the 2020-21 season was impacted as well, so anyone who played that year could get the extra year.) Hoggard, of course, declared for the draft this offseason before electing to come back to MSU. Jaden Akins will have one more year after this next one, but he has already sniffed at the draft as well and should be expected to do so again next year. Amongst next year’s sophomores - Jaxon Kohler, Tre Holloman, and Carson Cooper - it would take a very giant and unforeseen leap forward by any of them to think they could be ready for the NBA.

And then there is the 2023 recruiting class, which is already being touted as one of Coach Izzo’s best, even before they have played a single game. Of the four incoming freshmen, the most likely to be a one-and-done would be big man Xavier Booker. However, there is a lot of buzz around the freakish athleticism of wing Coen Carr, and we all know NBA GMs draft on potential. And there is also four-star point guard Jeremy Fears. If he can show that he is capable of being a significant reserve on this team, with all the talent that will be donning the Green&White in ‘23-’24, then maybe he too can get picked based on potential.

So of the 8 returning players and 4 incoming freshmen who are going to be getting playing time next year, it is a guarantee that 2 are playing their last year (Walker and Hall), 2 more are more than likely playing their last year (Hoggard and Akins; I could see Sissoko doing a 5th year), and 1 freshman has more than a 50% likelihood of going pro after one year (Booker). That means that Coach Izzo could have 5 spots to fill on the 2024-25 rotation. We will worry about that later.

Okay, so we have a list of Walker, Hall, Hoggard, Akins, and Booker as the candidates to get drafted next year. Let’s rank them, starting with the least likely.

5. Malik Hall

There are a few factors working against Malik that has him positioned at the bottom of this totem pole. Most obvious are his age, as he is about to turn 23, meaning he would be 24 by the time his hypothetical rookie season in the NBA happens. Also working against him are his injury history and his standing on the team; assuming he continues to be the 6th man for Coach Izzo, not being in the top-5 of his own team will not help him with NBA scouts.

Chance of being drafted: 5%

4. AJ Hoggard

AJ definitely took some big steps forward in the ‘22-’23 season, perhaps most significantly in his confidence and assertiveness. Aside from that, he also became the identifiable floor general, something that had been missing since the departure of Cassius Winston; he was the extension of the coach. His biggest asset to an NBA team, at this point, would be his passing and distribution. But if AJ can continue to develop his dribble game and become more of a scoring threat, that would make him even more valuable at the next level. His biggest weakness, which is particularly detrimental to him in today’s NBA, is his three-point percentage. Last season, he was shooting under .333. For a guard, this needs to be higher.

Chance of being drafted: 15%

3. Tyson Walker

Last year’s scoring leader comes back for his super-senior year after a brief period of uncertainty of what he was going to do. Looking at his game as it currently is, Tyson feels like he could be a valuable “3-and-D” guy at the next level, potentially carving himself out a long career as an NBA bench player. In addition to being the leading scorer, he also led the team in steals, was second in FG percentage and assists, and third in three-point percentage. If I had to identify one part of his game where he could stand to improve to make himself a better pro prospect, I would go with his two-man game. If Tyson could show some more pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays and can more frequently be the originator of an alley-oop pass, that could be a solid way to demonstrate a more all-around game.

Chance of being drafted: 25%

2. Jaden Akins

Jaden saw his value to the MSU basketball increase dramatically over the course of his sophomore season. After a couple of opening games where his minutes were in the teens and then a few where he played in the low twenties, he regularly saw playing time of upper twenties or even over thirty minutes per game. His high energy, particularly on the defensive end, made it hard for Izzo to replace him on the wing. Defensively, MSU saw its most success when Akins drew the toughest assignments. On offense, Akins ended up as the second most accurate three-point shooter on the squad at 42%, matching his overall FG%. As a wing player, the biggest favor Jaden can do himself this year is become more a scoring threat off the dribble. He could also afford to shoot a better rate from the free-throw line. If he continues to play heavy minutes and can start taking a larger share of MSU’s FGs, to inflate his scoring stats, he could end up staying in the draft next year.

Chance of being drafted: 50%

1. Xavier Booker

MSU’s five-star recruit is, in my opinion, the most likely player on this roster to get drafted next offseason. As mentioned above, the NBA is looking for potential, and the potential for Xavier, who still can’t drink legally in Canada, is higher than anyone else at Izzo’s disposal. In typical Izzo fashion, I don’t think Booker will be a starter when this season starts, but I do predict he will be installed into the top-five by the time Big Ten play begins. And I think he will end up as the power forward, not at center as he played in high school. His scouting reports have regularly mentioned his shot-making ability, indicating his ability to step out of the paint and still be a scoring threat. Add to that his passing ability, along with his great court vision, and his innate interior defensive skills due to his height and length, and it is easy to see why Booker is very likely a one-and-done and MSU’s most likely player to be drafted. In fact, I will say the only chance he has of not being drafted is if he decides to stick around East Lansing for a second year.

Chance of being drafted: 90%

Those are my thoughts. Let me know where you agree and disagree.

MSU begins its basketball season on November 6 against James Madison. Just 113 days away!